Check for meth lab before buying that foreclosure deal

Before buying that foreclosed home that is too good of a deal to pass up, you may want to first check if it was a meth lab.

No kidding. A recent New York Times story detailed how families are getting sick because they moved into homes that were previously used for making methamphetamine. The drug and the ingredients used to make it are so toxic that they seep into walls, vents, carpets and other areas, and take a costly and thorough scrubbing before the house can be habitable.

The story reports that meth lab seizures have risen nationally for the first time since 2003, and that federal data on such seizures suggests there are tens of thousands of contaminated residences in the United States.

"The victims include low-income elderly people whose homes are surreptitiously used by relatives or in-laws to make meth, and landlords whose tenants leave them with a toxic mess," the Times story says.

Cleanup can cost $30,000 or more, and it's unlikely you'll be able to track down and collect from the criminal who wold you the house.

The former owner of one such house marked "no" on a disclosure form asking if it had ever been a meth lab. The man is now in prison for meth possession and other things, and the family that bought the house has decided there was nothing to gain by suing him, the Times story reports. In fact, the family moved out had and to throw away most of their possessions because they couldn't be cleaned, and are letting the house go into foreclosure.

Dawn Turner started a Web site,, after her son lost money when he bought a foreclose in Tennessee that turned out to be contaminated.

Probably the best clients for foreclosed homes that have been meth labs may be the people who started these problems to begin with -- meth lab owners.

So the next time you see a foreclosed home you might want to buy, along with sending a house inspector to measure for methamphetamine contamination, you might want to ask the police to take a look, too.

Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Reach him at

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